THROWBACK THURSDAY: Sonobeat Records once called Liberty Hill home
By JAMES WEAR
SXSW (South By Southwest), the annual festival held in Austin to celebrate the entertainment industry, is over once again. And once again, hundreds of thousands of people descended upon the capitol of the State of Texas to listen to music from singers and bands from all over the world.
Long before SXSW, Austin had already carved a niche in the music world, and among those who played a role in developing the scene was the father/son team of Bill Josey Sr. and Bill Josey Jr.
According to information found on sonobeatrecords.com, Bill Sr. was once a station manager for FM radio station KAZZ, with Bill Jr. also working there. The senior Josey is credited with launching live broadcasts of musicians appearing at an Austin hotel back in the mid-1960s and soon the father/son team would establish Sonobeat Records.
For the next several years Sonobeat would record such artists as Johnny Winter, who at one time was tabbed by Rolling Stone magazine as “the hottest item outside Janis Joplin.”
Other artists included the late Rusty Wier, back when he was a member of an Austin band known as Lavender Hill Express, Allen Damron and many others, including a young female artist by the name of Michele Murphy who was living in Liberty Hill at the time.
Many years later, Murphy would serve a term as mayor of Liberty Hill, and would become known as “Mike” rather than Michele.
Beginning in 1972 and continuing until 1976, Murphy recorded a large number of tracks with Sonobeat but none were ever released commercially. However, off the strength of some of the demos Murphy cut in the spring of 1973 she was able to earn a place on stage at the Kerrville Music Festival later that year.
Another artist who the Josey duo recorded in 1973 was the late Johnny Lyon, who more than 30 years later would perform live in Liberty Hill during its annual barbecue cookoff as well as play for a dance held at the Liberty Hill fire station. Among his Liberty Hill fans was a young lady by the name of Suzy Joseph, who would eventually marry Johnny.
It was Murphy who encouraged Bill Sr. to relocate Sonobeat to Liberty Hill after the record company’s lease at the radio station KVET building on North Lamar in Austin expired in June of 1973.
Sonobeat soon found itself at the AME Church located south of Liberty Hill off CR 279. The old stone building, used by its congregation only a couple of times of month at the time, required much work before being ready for business.
The new studio was named Blue Hole Sounds, and over the next couple of years much of the work the Josey duo took on was custom recording jobs.
In the spring of 1975, Bill Sr. was diagnosed with cancer with the illness forcing him to slow down on the number of recording sessions he could conduct. Despite his illness, he was able to release Sonobeat’s third and final album.
Bill Sr. died on Sept. 28, 1976, while hospitalized in Temple. Soon after, boxes of master tapes and documents were placed in the station wagon he drove and left on the studio property. In the mid 1980s, another of Bill Sr.’s sons, Jack, began a long task of collecting all tapes and cataloging the work, and stored the tapes in a temperature controlled environment. In the mid-2000s, Jack and Bill Jr. and other heirs, created Sonobeat Historical Archives and launched a website.
Since then, many of the recordings have been reissued with plans to continue doing such.